We sat in the living room, enjoying one of those light-hearted, loving chats between spouses.
''I don't have a column topic this week,'' I wailed, but light-heartedly.
''Stop whining and go write something,'' she snapped back, but lovingly.
''Some help you are,'' I chatted.
My spouse wound up for a pleasant rejoinder, but I cut her off. ''Shh. What's that sound?'' I cocked my ear. ''Never mind, it's just the washer filling.''
Terry bolted from the couch. ''I'm not doing laundry.''
A tinge of hope swept through my chest. Seconds later, Terry yelped from the basement landing. I grinned and ran. It was beautiful! Water gushed like an upside down fountain.
Terry turned to me. ''Do something.''
''OK, how's this: 'I've dreamed of the day I'd be affluent enough to afford an indoor pool. Turns out you don't need cash after all, just burst bathroom pipes.'''
''What,'' Terry screamed, ''was that?''
''The opening lines to this week's column. Sure, it probably needs tweaked a little ...''
''I'll tweak something if you don't help me find the shutoff valve.''
The greatest tragedy of being a humor columnist is suffering the lack of understanding from your fellow man - or from your wife. No one seems to get how delightfully delicious disasters are for a humor writer.
The standard formula for coming up with column topics is wait until I do something stupid, then write about it. Sure, that sounds easy, but I've been writing a weekly column for 21 years. That's more than 1,000 goofs, gaffes and gone-wrongs. Even a guy as talented as I am at missteps can be intimidated by that pace.
Then a blessed event occurs, such as bursting bathroom pipes.
The music of a muffled Niagara Falls played from somewhere beyond the paneling. Terry gasped. ''It's inside the walls.''
''Awesome,'' I said. ''P.D. James once said, 'Nothing that happens to a writer - however happy, however tragic - is ever wasted.' I'm savoring the moment.''
Terry glared. She wasn't in a savoring mood.
Sadly, the shutoff valve was found. Our indoor waterfalls dried up.
We surveyed the damage in the bathroom. Terry groaned. ''At least the floor seems mostly intact.''
I groaned, too. And started jumping up and down.
''What are you doing?'' she yelled.
''It's only enough damage to get me through one week. But if I ride the bathtub into the basement, that's at least two weeks worth of columns.''
''How many weeks for a broken leg?''
''How am I going to break my leg?''
''I'm still working out the details,'' she said.
My brother-in-law the plumber and my dad the fix-it guy replaced the pipe. The water in the basement drained through the sump pump. The bathtub stayed in the bathroom. Tragedy was averted.
Afterward, we sat in the living room, enjoying one of those light-hearted, loving chats between spouses.
''I still don't have a column topic,'' I wailed, but light-heartedly.
''I think I figured out the broken leg,'' she snapped back, but lovingly.
''Never mind. I'll come up with something,'' I chatted.
Even humor writers can handle only so much disaster.
---- Write Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday. com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.